The look she gave me

This morning I dropped the kids off at school. Usually my husband does it but he had to go into the office early today. So after some intense Shoe Drama (“I left my indoor shoes in Daddy’s van! I won’t have indoor shoes at schooooooool!”) we piled into the car and off we went.

We had to park up the street a bit because of the yellow and black school buses that swarmed the main school parking lot. My daughter held my hand while my son walked ahead by a few paces. As we followed the sidewalk they explained to me the drop-off routine: kids on their own use the fenced-in path, but kids with parents don’t. And I leave my son with his friends but I take my daughter to her lined-up kindergarten class. Got it.

We spotted my son’s small group of friends. “Bye, Momma,” he said, as if it was an afterthought.

Before my daughter took off in a similar fashion, I quickly bent down and kissed the top of her head. “Bye, Momma,” she blurted as she let go of my hand. She ran over to her line-up partner: a smiling girl with curly, fire-red hair.

I watched my daughter stand in line next to the brick school wall, her back to me, wearing her happy, polka-dot spring jacket and Paw Patrol backpack. “Bye, Lexi,” I called.

She turned. She looked at me with a look I will never forget. A look that said she’s fine, Momma, now go!

A look that said I’m older now, can’t you see?

A look that said, I’m growing up, whether you like it or not.

I felt a lump in my throat. I turned to leave so that I wouldn’t embarrass my daughter with a drawn-out good-bye. But mostly I left because a swoop of emotions clutched at my heart.

I was in such a rush moments before…now all I want is for time to slow down.

(Oh, and the shoes? Daddy had put them in the car before he left. My daughter saw them on her seat as soon as she opened the car door. Crisis averted. Thanks, Daddy.)

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My Emotional World, Decade by Decade

Here is another fantastic writing prompt from my husband. I’ll try to remember what kinds of things were going through my head, decade by decade…

Decade One: 10 Years Old

Context: When I was 10 years old I was in Grade 5, in Mr. Corey’s Grade 5/6 split class. Mr. Corey had our desks arranged in circles with a computer in the middle of each circle (Commodore 64s!). I remember one of my favourite projects in his class was to make a little book of short stories. We would type our stories into the computer, print them out with the dot-matrix printer, paste them onto glossy paper (we could choose the colour), and then design the cardboard cover. When we were done he had the covers laminated. I was also a book worm at that point, reading all kinds of different books and drooling whenever the Scholastic Book fair came to our school. I think this was around the time I was obsessed with horses and My Little Pony. I wanted to be a palaeontologist or a zoologist when I grew up.

Emotions: I remember being in my own little dream-world most of the time, when I wasn’t concentrating on school work or playing with my small group of friends. I would make up worlds which usually included winged horses or unicorns. From what I remember the worlds were usually forest-based and fairytale-like. I guess the word that comes to mind for this decade is whimsy or dreamy. I was a bit on the chubby side and was self-conscious about that. I was also receiving a weekly allowance and I remember saving up for specific toys. I would obsess about whatever toy it was but I noticed that the more time that passed, the more the obsession would wane. When I discovered something that I wanted to buy I would tell myself, “Wait a couple of days and see how you feel about it then.” Nine times out of ten I realized that it didn’t really matter that I didn’t have it.

Decade Two: 20 Years Old

Context: If my calculations are correct, I would have just started my undergraduate degree in university. At some point in high school I realized I didn’t want to dig up dinosaur bones any longer and the thought of being a zoologist, for some reason I can’t remember, fizzled. For my university major I originally chose to study biotechnology, since I was good at science in high school and I rather liked it. The funny thing was is that I didn’t have a super clear understanding of what biotechnology is–I knew it had something to do with biology, chemistry, and genetics, all subjects I had been good at. And I knew there was an applied aspect to it, too. (Looking back I obviously should have done more research!) Anyway, my university courses kicked my butt. I was so used to receiving grades in the range of 80-99% that I was terrified when I discovered I was barely passing. And I didn’t really like the science courses, either. I was freaking out. So I sat back and thought, “I like the sciences and the arts…how about psychology?” So I went for it. I changed my major and was much happier. But did I know what I wanted to do with my degree? Not really. Maybe a therapist?

Emotions: At this point in my life the world seemed overwhelming. So overwhelmed is a good word to describe this time in my life. Probably scared, anxious, nervous, and clueless, too! I would also say impatient, because I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking before making a decision–I just wanted to make the damn decision! I wanted a plan! The older me would have coached myself to take a breath, sit back, and consider things, including taking some time to think about who I am. Looking back I didn’t really know who I was when I was in my early 20s. All I knew was that I certainly wasn’t ready to face the world! I was a terrified little rabbit.

Decade Three: 30 Years Old

Context: I earned a Ph.D.! I was going to find a job in academia, as a professor! I would continue to study bumblebees and teach psychology courses. My career seemed all planned out, if only I could find a job…

Emotions: I was certainly feeling more self-confident, proud of my accomplishments, and a bit anxious (in a good way) for the future. I was optimistic that I would land the perfect academic career.

Decade Four: 40 Years Old

Context: Well, the academic job never materialized. After 4656734 rejection letters and a contract professor position that taught me that academia wasn’t for me, I was going contract-to-contract with university research jobs. It was certainly NOT the path I expected! And I had to do a lot of soul-searching in order to be okay with that. Through that process of self-reflection I realized that writing is my true passion, and that my goal is to one day have my own book on the shelf. So I started to take writing seriously. I go to writing conferences and classes and workshops whenever I can. I’ve been published in several children’s magazines and I have an agent (hooray!). I now have my own family: a husband, two children, and a dog.

Emotions: I have to say I’m much more at peace. My husband, kids, friends, and yes, even my dog, have taught me to keep perspective. To slow my mind down. To see the world and my situation, whatever it may be, more broadly and in context. I’ve learned that there’s much, much more to life than a career. I’m much more self-aware, in tune with my feelings (especially my gut feelings), and comfortable with myself and the path that I am on. I still lose perspective sometimes, and I still feel anxious now and then, but I try to be a friend to myself. Rather than try to shove aside my feelings and truck on, I try to ask myself, How would a friend react to my thoughts? It’s tough and I’m still learning, but I find if I take the mental energy to shift in that direction, the outcome is a much more calm and peaceful state. I’m also learning to let go of other people’s expectations. That is a big one. But I’m getting there.

Decade Five: 50 Years Old

Context: …to be continued…

Emotions: …to be continued…

A Christmas Tradition: A Teddy Bear Finds Christmas

Every year since I was little we put up a special calendar on the first of December. It was a calendar my grandmother made.

It is the story of a little bear who couldn’t wait for Christmas so he decided to look for it. Each day in December he looks in a different spot, indicated in the calendar at the bottom. My grandmother sewed a button on every spot where the bear looks.

This little bear is pretty thorough in his search!

Anyway, today is Christmas Eve and–SPOILER ALERT!–he finally found Christmas: in the living room with all of his family.

This year my son was very diligent about moving the bear to his particular spot on the calendar each day. And it was heartwarming to hear him read the little calendar at the bottom all by himself.

As I sit and look at the calendar with a belly full of special chocolate-chip-banana-pancakes-for-breakfast, I sigh as I think that we (and the bear) made it to another Christmas Eve. All the rush and the planning and now it is simply beautiful anticipation in the air.

Merry Christmas to all! And to all a beary good night.

Fetch!

It’s painful to have to walk a dog around 5:45 a.m., especially in winter.

But in some ways it’s rather peaceful.

If it’s not cloudy then you can see the stars. There’s hardly any cars on the roads. There’s a bunny here and there.

And all you can hear are our footsteps. The world feels fast asleep.

Lately it’s been rather playful on our walks, too. I’ve brought along a cloth frisbee or a Kong toy on the end of a rope and tossed it for Spirit, our almost-one-year-old border collie/lab mix, in a schoolyard nearby. Spirit is a natural at fetch. There’s something about seeing her race after the toy, grabbing it, and proudly prancing back to you, that warms the heart. Especially when she does a little victory lap before dropping the toy at your feet.

It’s also endearing to see the accumulating frost around her snout and on her whiskers, the longer we play in the cold.

By the time we need to head on home, the chickadees have woken up and are chirping their hellos. The sky has turned an almost sepia tone.

And Spirit is still prancing. And I have a bit of a spring in my step, too.

Simple pleasures: a dog, a toy, and a field.

IMG_3502
Spirit with her chin on her favourite blanket.

Hi! I’m Monica.

Hello! My name is Monica. I’m Dana’s office plant.


I’m rather special if I do say so myself. Why? Because Dana hasn’t killed me yet!

(Although she did leave for vacation for a week and no one watered me and so I was rather droopy when she returned… But I prevailed! I hope we never, ever have a close call like that again. Right, Dana?!)

Apparently Dana has a pretty bad track record when it comes to houseplants. Last I heard she killed about 14 or something like that. She seems rather nice and treats me well (okay, except for the week vacation). So what does she do wrong?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m an office plant. And/or that I’m an ivy. We ivies (ivys?) are a pretty hearty bunch. Case in point: the week vacation. (Oops, I brought that up again.)

I even keep growing more leaves! I’ve been on Dana’s desk for over three months now and my vine has grown extensively.

I have it pretty good here. I have a nice view of the street with the occasional exciting firetruck that goes whizzing by. Dana is quiet and drinks lots of coffee and tea. (Some of her teas smell really good!) She mostly types and reads. It’s a quiet life and I like it.

But maybe one day she’ll bring me a friend?

Barcelona: Beauties and Oddities

Right now I am whipping through the Spanish countryside on a train that’s going 200km/h. We’re on our way to Valencia after spending a couple of days in Barcelona.

To me, Barcelona is a lovely mix of beauty and oddity. Four of its beauties, in no particular order:

1. The Sagrada Família. We walked there, turned a corner, and BAM! There it was. I literally gasped. 

Pictures don’t do it proper justice. The mish-mash of serious churchiness and cartoony whimsy is my kind of art. I never thought I would be so mesmerized by a church. Unfortunately we were only able to see the outside as tickets were sold out. No surprise there.

2. Park Güell. Fantastic walking trails with a Gaudi masterpiece nestled here and there. The stuff of fairy tales. I’m really digging Gaudi!


3. Tapas!!

4. Sandcastles on the beach—with FIRE!


Then there are the occasional oddities. Here are five and again, in no particular order:

1. A yaht complete with shrink-wrapped helicopter.

2. A man walking downtown carrying an ocillating fan.

3. A young woman walking downtown carrying a toaster.

4. A beepy-boopy electronic tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” coming from seemingly nowhere. Is it someone’s ringtone? No. Is it a car alarm? No. We finally see a tipped-over Christmas ornament on the sidewalk: A foot-long, cheap plastic Santa with a creepy smile on his face. Nothing and no one around it. (I was laughing too hard to take a picture.)

5. Rotisserie chickens spinning humorously and amazingly fast on a spit in a shop window. Maybe it’s a special cooking trick.

The train has arrived in Valencia! What beauties and oddities await us here?

Saturday mornings need lop-sided pigtails

The bedroom door is flung open with a burst of hallway light blasting my eyes.

“Momma, can you get up now?”

I squint at the clock. 6:09 a.m. On a Saturday.

My sleepy brain groans. My body feels like a bag of bricks. “Wait until the clock says seven-zero-zero,” I mumble.

“Okay!” And she slams the door.

What feels like thirty seconds pass when the door is flung open again. “Momma,” she calls in a loud-ish, raspy whisper, “It’s time to get up!” 

Before I launch into a restrained adult-tantrum about the necessity of older people sleeping in on weekends, I open my eyes and see her standing there, with three lop-sided pigtails in her hair and dressed in her ballet outfit. I can’t help but smirk. In her own way she knows how to celebrate a Saturday.

My daughter’s self-styled hair and outfit choice…

It is now 8:27 and we’ve ploughed through a plate of pancakes, a page in a colouring book, two episodes of Paw Patrol, a mini-dance party, and a funny-face competition. 

Suddenly it is eerily quiet. I peek into the living room.

The child is asleep on the couch…

Darth Vader’s Guide to Bumblebees

Greetings, to whoever is reading this record of my discovery of this planet called…Earth

I am the almighty Darth Vader, and I have been seeking to destroy the Jedi across the universe. I have been in search of Jedi on this planet Earth and I believe I have finally found them.

They are very small, these Jedi. And covered in fur, like Ewoks or Wookies. (I hate Ewoks and Wookies…) 

They fly, these small Jedi. And make a BZZZzzzZZZzzz sound. Quite annoying, actually. (But then again, all Jedi are annoying…)

The Force is strong with them. Their navigational skills are impressive. And they wield a weapon that strikes like a compact Lightsaber, searing and burning the skin upon impact. 

Like any cowardly Jedi they only strike on the defensive, never on the offensive. Although they are quite stealthy: one of these small Jedi flew up inside one of my Stormtrooper’s uniforms. He died a painful, arm-flailing death.

My scientists tell me these small Jedi have a weakness for colours and fragrances. Rather odd. But then again I have a weakness for JiffyPop, so who am I to judge?

In the meantime, while on Earth, I guess I will stay out of my Hawaiian shirts and lay off the Chanel No. 5.

Starting from scratch

We had some landscaping done in our backyard recently that resulted in brand new gardening opportunities.

A completely blank canvas! Oh, the possibilities. For helping…bees! (And other pollinators too, of course.)

I did a little happy dance then headed straight to the nearest gardening centre.

Did I have a clue as to what to get? Um, nope! Well, whatever was on sale and looked bee-worthy.

The garden centre actually had little pre-made baskets from The Canadian Wildlife Federation with flowers that attract specific pollinators: bees, butterflies, hummingbirds… I bought one for bees (and I think I’ll go back to get the others).

With a big bag of dirt and a cart chocked full of baby plants, I hurried home to tuck them into their new home before the sun set.

Here are some of my new babies. Like a new mom, I’m not sure what I’m doing but I’ll do my best and hope that they thrive! (My grandmother was a stellar gardener and I’m hoping to channel some of her super-powers.)

Basil! One of my favourite herbs. I admit it’s more for me than the bees.

Russian sage. Never heard of it before…

Never heard of cat mint before, either. But all those little purple blooms are certainly bee-friendly.

More purple bee flowers! Although this one came from the 99 cent shelf and I have no idea what they are…

I don’t know what these flowers are, either, but I always thought they look pretty.

Four bits of magic

Cottages always hold such potential for little bits of magic. We went up to our cottage last weekend, kept our eyes open, and we were not disappointed.

1. If we leave peanuts out for the chipmunks, will they find them? The answer: yes! Well, at least something took them. We didn’t hang around to see who or what, since the mosquitoes were out in full force.

Lexi on her way to see if the peanuts had been taken.

2. Sitting in the sun, minding my own business, when this big blue friend stops for a visit. We hung out for quite a while. I wonder what it was about my knee that was so attractive? Regardless, it was a treat to marvel at this big beauty up close.

A big, friendly dragonfly. I don’t think I’ve ever had one land on me before.

3. What I think is a damselfly landed on my foot after I had gone for a swim. I transferred it to my hand and it stayed to visit for a while. It even let me put it on my son’s hand, too, before it decided to fly away.

I think this is some kind of damselfly… Whatever it is, it liked our hands!
Our (blurry) damselfly friend on my son’s finger.

4. “Mommy, can you find me some sea shells?” I searched and searched and found these snail shells in the water next to shore. I think my daughter kept them clutched in her fist for the rest of our trip.

Three “sea shells.” The long nails on my daughter’s hand are actually fake Canada Day-themed nails.

I wonder what bits of magic await us for the next time?